Co-operators rolls out first rebrand in four decades

Who: Co-operators Group Ltd., with Huge for strategy and creative, Epitaph Group for media.

What: “Investing in your future. Together,” a total rebrand that includes a new visual identity and accompanying ad campaign signalling Co-operators’ shift from its historical focus on insurance to becoming a complete financial services brand. It’s the company’s first major brand update in 44 years.

When & Where: The campaign is in market nationally, with a significant buy that includes TV, online and out of home, as well as PR and influencer. The campaign runs until the end of the year.

Why: A well-known Canadian insurance brand, Co-operators has been reinventing itself as a “full-service holistic financial services provider,” said head of marketing and communications Cindy Wong. The changes have been underway for some time, but the accompanying marketing campaign was delayed by the pandemic.

When Wong arrived at Co-operators from HSBC in April, she was asked to come up with a marketing campaign that would clearly communicate the big changes. “A lot of the insights were done, [but] it was still being built, so there was still a lot of heavy lifting,” she said. “And we pivoted a bit based on changes during the pandemic and changes to peoples behaviour.”

The CEO and board were open to dramatic changes for the brand, matching the changes to the organization itself, she said. “If you want to signal change, and you want to change people’s behaviours from thinking you’re just an insurance provider, you need to do something that looks different, that is bold and courageous,” said Wong. “Rather than a slight tweak, you’ve got to switch it around quite a bit. We just kept dialling up the degree of boldness.”

How: The consumer insight underlying the campaign is that people feel unsupported and behind financially, and for many, that sense of trying to “catch up” increased during the pandemic. Co-operators commissioned a survey which found that 64% of respondents wanted a personalized plan that was unique to them. “They really wanted someone to give them personalized advice, and not just a numbers-based ‘Here’s your risk profile and here’s your plan,'” said Wong.

That consumer insight inspired the “The <your name here> plan” campaign. The idea is that Co-operators can create a financial plan that is right for its customers, no matter how unique their personal circumstances.

The TV creative opens with a voiceover explaining that there are “no generic investment plans” at Co-operators, and goes on to depict several specific slice-of-life stories illustrating the unique nature of the characters’ financial needs. “The Edmund Plan,” is for Edmund, who is taking steps to become full-time baker, while “The Reina Plan” is for a senior with a free spirit who wants to have fun long into her retirement. “Your future is personal, your plan should be too,” says the voiceover

“To launch the new brand identity, we needed a campaign that wouldn’t just tell Canadians Co-operators understands them, but shows what truly personalized service and advice means,” said Allen Oke, Huge’s executive creative director, in a release.

“Part of my brief to the agency was that I need it to have heart,” said Wong. “I needed people to see themselves in that situation, and I needed them to have warmth and a smile.”

The logo: A goal for the new visual identity was to signal change while maintaining ties to the company’s legacy. Albert Savage, one of the founders of Co-operators, described the company as “an acorn that will grow into one of the greatest oak trees of the co-operative movement.” Huge came up with a logo that is a “modern interpretation of an oak leaf,” along with an arrow representing Co-operators new future-forward vision.

“The movement and momentum in the logo reflect Co-operators’ commitment to supporting Canadians as they help them grow their financial future,” said Oke. “As well, the natural and historic quality of the oak leaf is a nod to their past and what makes the brand different and stands out from others in financial services.”

David Brown